2021 Year End Campaign

It’s that time of year again. Time to rally our forces, plan for the new year and to let our supporters know what it is we’ve accomplished, what we do, and why it’s important.

This is a four-minute video of the beauty and the challenges we face at Square Peg Foundation.

Please support this work.

Video Transcript:

Indian summer is the best time of the year. Foggy mornings turn to warm days. But the daylight hours erode and longer nights sneak in.  Soon the rains will come to  the thirsty hills and quell the raging wildfires. 

As days get shorter, I face the limitation of what we can accomplish in a day. Precious daylight hours are shrinking and caring for horses is difficult in the oncoming months. Volunteer excitement wanes and water pipes will freeze and break. Every year I’m older. Lifting feed and wrapping injured legs gets more difficult. 

As mild as Coastal California winters are, chores must be done. 

The heaviness I feel is not the shortened daylight hours but rather the weight of the waiting list.

Families are asking for help.  Calls, texts, Facebook and Instagram messenger, emails and visits. Their stories haunt us. They fill out our online forms and I tell them about the waiting list.

Can I bear to tell them about the other 120 families on the list?  Our staff obsessively reviews the list. Instinctively, we press our palms to our hearts while reading the families’ stories. Sometimes we just hug each other and try to find the time and the strength to make more room. 

Recognizing the waiting list is a testament to the quality of our work brings strength to our efforts.

I make the staff a cup of strong coffee and we  remind each other that having a day off is critical to our health. But it doesn’t go down easily. Our eyes scan the weekly calendar looking for a slot, looking for an opportunity to make room for more. 

Good business people wisely say- “just hire more staff.” We search our networks looking for  potential staff with the”it” factor. The people who “get it.” People with mad horsemanship skills, curiosity, joie de vivre, humor, humility, responsibility.  People who embrace their experience of feeling like an outcast and flipping the script for the learners in their charge. People who understand the toxicity of our own narrow mindedness and courageously explore and expand their humanity.  People who know the restorative power of laughter. People who can catch lizards, re-word Irish drinking songs and hip-hop singles into age appropriate jingles on the fly. People willing to be vigilant and vulnerable, with superior judgement, natural compassion and an ability to care deeply are treasures not easily found.

The weight of the waiting list gets heavier when people call with a horse that can no longer carry their dreams on the racetrack, the show ring or down trails. They want their horse to bring joy to Square Peg families. I have to tell them we are more than full, and that our time and budgets and space are already over taxed. I stay awake at night thinking of placements for those horses. Sometimes, I have ideas or suggestions or options – but not always and the weight is heavy. 

The weight of the waiting list means carving out time to advise people who have a dream to start or grow a similar program. Perhaps our experience can benefit new programs that will serve their communities. 

I sit with the weight of the waiting list in the early morning before the horses are fed. In the quiet before the daily joyful circus starts I think about the beautiful things that unfolded yesterday – of the challenges the day will bring. I’m inspired by the curious open faces of the horses who greet me  and I do what I can to connect to that eagerness – that ability to stand in the moment with an open heart. 

Being present is lovely but I’m the executive director bearing the weight of the waiting list. Planning, learning from past mistakes, building, re-organizing, supporting are tasks I must face. 

The weight of the waiting list is a calling to growth, to cultural change.  It’s a chance to prove, what we know is true – that care, safe spaces, dignity and joy heal our minds, our families and our communities. 

Joell Dunlap, October 3, 2021

Mischief – The Summer of “Surprise Haircut”

I will tell the story we call “The Summer of Surprise Haircut.” I’ve changed the names to protect the savages but – they know who they are.

I’m making generalizations here but humor me.  Barns are full of girls/women and we are of a type.  Ball caps, sunburns and pony tails, dirty fingernails, loud laughs and clothes stained with sweat, horse medicines, axle grease not to mention, cat and dog hair and the ever present horse slobber.

The Summer of the Surprise Haircut was typical in that our employees, volunteers, working students and interns reflected the description above. 

Kendra was sitting on a tack box between stalls trying to eat lunch while fending off nibbles from horses on both sides. Eventually, she gave up and ran her hands down her red rope braid of hair and inspected the ends that looked like they’d been gnawed by small animals. She commented  on the state of her hair and I and several others realized we were all in the same boat. Wind, sun, sweat, and a lack of interest in products contributed to this condition. 

Suddenly, without warning, Delphine rushed over, grabbed Kendra’s braid and hacked off three inches of her hair with a pair of shears we used for horse tails and baling twine.

“SUPRISE HAIRCUT!” She screamed.

Kendra’s mouth dropped and everyone rolled with belly laughs at the audacious act.

Delphine held the cut hair high like a trophy and jumped up and down while we all laughed ourselves silly.

Of course Kendra’s hair looked hacked, of course she’d need to visit an experienced beautician to “fix” it – but still, it was funny. Savagely funny.

That summer, without warning, there were many surprise haircuts. Unspoken rules developed; she who had been the recipient of a surprise haircut was on the prowl to deliver the next one and so it went all summer. 

I found girls hiding in the tack room crying over an attack and each time, I left them alone to come to the realization that our hair does not define us and despite feeling attacked and violated, it was, in actuality, just hilarious fun. 

Toward the end of summer, I was reaching into a tack box to retrieve a favorite half pad when I heard several sets of boots running at me yelling “SUPRISE HAIRCUT.” The deed was done so swiftly and savagely I didn’t have time to defend myself. Despite being 30 years older than the girls, I too lost a good three inches of sun streaked hair.  As a group, we fell to the ground laughing – each of us had lost something, and each of us needed to come to the conclusion that we we’d lost was simply an unhelpful attachment to something we assumed defined us, but in fact, this was a fallacy. 

Perhaps the best part of the joke is “Get over yourself.”

Whenever I tell this story, even to barn girls, people squirm and one or two invariably let me know “That’s not even remotely funny Joell.” And of course, they are basically correct. But to talk to any of those teens about “the summer of Surprise Haircut” and they all fall into peals of deep laughter. 

Was this just a particularly rough bunch of teens that year?

Perhaps, but I think not. 

By now you know that our horses are primarily Off Track Thoroughbreds and almost exclusively geldings. When we turn them out in pasture for their social time, you can’t help but marvel at the shenanigans that happen with healthy horses of all ages get to roll and run and wrestle. 

Most of the time it’s all good fun but sometimes there are bruises and bleeding. Roles are developed and re-organized, personalities and preferences bubble up and  we watch the horses explore limits, push boundaries, try out new behaviors and discover, over and over again – the joy of mischief. 

So what is mischief and why is it charming? Is it character building? Is it healthy? 

I think the important part about mischief is that it’s an illustration that somebody feels safe enough to push boundaries in a joyful way. Do lines get crossed?  They do and most often the boundary crosser is rebuked for their efforts. But if that boundary is pushed just enough – we laugh and laugh and bonds are created and strengthened, community and friendships are developed and life is simply…. Better. 

It’s the same with teen girls and adolescent Thoroughbreds. 

Humor is multi-layered and complicated. Mischief takes this one step further and illustrates complex ideas such as rules and how to point out how ineffective they might be, social context of understanding, absurdity and more. If you want to get all “neuroscience-ish” about it, you might see how Theory of Mind is developing, the rich dance of boundaries and relationships, advocacy, agency are developed and re-shaped.  

For the record, this is turning out to be “The Summer of the Well-Placed Plastic Snake.” 

Wow.

A dear friend is a trauma specialist. Not only is she tremendously effective as a therapist, she’s wildly curious about different approaches.  She’s open, thoughtful and fearless in exploring other modalities and theories. 

She visited a neuro-feedback specialist in just this fashion. 

She asked the specialist what she needed to divulge about her history in order to get started.  The specialist said “Nothing.  I don’t want any backstory to color my initial evaluation.”

Intrigued, my friend submitted to the measurements, the tests and the observations. 

Eventually, the specialist pronounced “Well, I don’t see any evidence of childhood trauma in your brain.”

My friend gently informed the specialist that the observation was entirely untrue. My friend has a prolonged, horrific and documented traumatic childhood until the age of seven.

Without batting an eye, the specialist answered

“Oh, then you must have had horses.”

HORSES. HEAL. 

Green With Eddie by Square Eddie. Winner of $134,570

Forbidden Fruit

Perhaps you remember the 1990 ad campaign from Volkswagen.  They cleverly coined a silly made up German word – “Fahrvergnügen” means “driving enjoyment” in English (from fahren, “to drive,” and vergnügen, “enjoyment”).

That’s not what Fahrvergnugen means at Square Peg. 

Here – Fahrvegnugen means much much more.  At least to one little guy.

Like all of us, he’s struggling with his COVID reality.  Like all of us, he’s bored, restless and lonely.

Unlike you or me, he’s only 6 years old and he’s got ZERO control over any of it. He’s also got a neurology that demands that he MOVE and RUN and EXPLORE even more than the average 6 year old.

As a result, he’s broken toys and furniture in the home, he’s losing sleep, he’s unable to access classwork on a Zoom call. 

These are hard times for him.

In hard times, we all look for coping techniques and once again, many things that are available to an adult aren’t available to him.

I’m going to level with you here.  I’m a person who has, from time to time (read: often) used “bad language.” Certain words are powerful, crass, and more satisfying than I should admit. They are words that punctuate, color, bruise, entertain, illustrate. And they are off limits to a 6 year old. 

Ergo, these words become delicious, tantalizing, compelling and bold. Dangle them in front of a bored, restless, lonely, curious, bright and frustrated child and VIOLA – you’ve got a powder keg of f-bombs just waiting to explode.

This young man’s imagination and curiosity are stupendous. His intelligent mind is on fire from the minute his eyes open in the morning. Consequently motivating him to stay on task – any task for any length of time is not just a critical skill, it’s really – frickin’ hard.

So we used a lever.  We told him that sitting on our pony’s back was a safe place – a place where he could say anything he wanted…… 

And boy did he let some frustration fly. From the privacy of the ranch, we didn’t flinch when he let off verbal steam and we gave him a channel for his frustration.

But at some point, we have to re-direct. Because the world can be an unkind place for a little guy with a neurology that causes him to rush and dart about, climb into small spaces, over walls and fences while shouting obscenities like a rap star.  But taking away such delicious, tempting, powerful words also felt like a cruelty and a misuse of trust. And it set us all up for failure. 

With the permission of this child’s amazing mom, we met as a team and devised a “secret language” with our own, private, powerful words that were satisfying to say, secret, and only ours.  These would be words that were tricky to say – words that would, in stealth, help him with some speech pathology while achieving the soothing power of a strong words that punctuate big feelings. 

Words that are satisfying to say – like a laying down of a pressure-laden burden. Words that skirt the edges of naughty – but plunge into the magical depth of 6 year old silliness. Mystical, secret words shared between trusted friends. 

“Fahrvergnuegen”

One of the things about the field of autism support that both energizes me and exhausts me is that as the science evolves and changes, we find that our most basic understandings of humanity – namely the critical role of engaged and loving caregivers as well as the role of playfulness – are consistently the most effective in relieving the suffering of autism families.  it’s the intention of helping to give a voice to those who suffer – rather than the method by which we elicit that voice that matters most. While we all strive to find more effective and reliable methods to facilitate communication in those with language or emotional barriers, we must never forget that the humanity of the affected person is paramount.

Essential – A Blog Post by Davis Finch

Joell’s note: My friend Davis Finch is a deep thinker. His honesty is rare and the clarity of his writing inspires me. He is generous with helping me see the world though his unique lens which includes autism and anxiety. Below are his thoughts about the COVID lockdowns, mental health, the importance of meaningful work and his processing of the loss of a good friend.

         Since the start of the pandemic, a lot has been said about essential workers.  Certainly, front-line workers such as doctors and nurses who work with Covid-19 patients deserve our praise.  But the phrase essential workers and the policies surrounding it sometimes make it seem like most workers and most jobs are not important.  The problem with this sort of framing is that while many jobs may not be absolutely necessary for society to function, they are essential to the people who work them. It is not only the pay that is essential, but also the dignity and sense of purpose that comes with working.  That is what I feel is missing from the proposition that we should pay people to stay home for the duration of the pandemic.  Sure, that sort of policy might mean fewer deaths from COVID, but it would not help the mental stresses involved with social distancing, namely isolation, and the despair that comes with living merely to survive.  If millions of people are living that way, COVID may ebb somewhat, but at a cost of potential increases in suicide, domestic violence, alcoholism, self-harm, and other antisocial coping mechanisms.  Clearly, there is more that is essential to a healthy society than income, hospitals, and grocery stores.  Also essential is in-person human interaction, a sense of purpose, and freedom to leave your house; in other words, a sense of dignity.  When governments deny their citizens those other essentials, are they not denying them their humanity?

What is essential also depends on the individual.  Some personal “essentials” may be ridiculous or politically motivated, but others are activities or enterprises that are truly fundamental to a person’s well-being.  Personally, perhaps in part because of my Autism, I have a heightened fear of overly draconian restrictions imposed by a well-meaning but ignorant leader.  I am a very anxious person, so constant rumors about new restrictions combined with reports of record new case numbers and deaths has made this a very difficult time for me.  Furthermore, I was good friends with Golden Gate Fields trainer Bob Hess Sr. and the news of his death from the virus brought the pandemic home for me.  When I am at home by myself, I tend to dwell on everything and my mental state can decline.  Being with horses is my escape and I am terrified of losing the ability to do that.  These days, feeding horses is my job, but it is much more than that.  It is a chance to be outdoors, get away from my house, get some exercise, and make horses happy, which in turn gives me inner peace.  This peace helps me through the long nights at home and constant reports of bad news. Therefore, regardless of governmental classifications, this job is essential to me.

COVID-induced restrictions, when applied appropriately, are a useful tool for fighting a devastating disease, but leaders need to realize that there are intangible essentials and make an effort to not deprive people of them.  The United States has actually been far more respectful of this than many foreign countries, with their extreme lock-downs that have, in some cases, been akin to house arrest.  As hard as it may be, sometimes it might be best for leaders to just give their citizens the best available data and recommendations for how to stay safe, but leave the tough personal choices to them.  Protecting public health while preserving society’s essential needs is a delicate balancing act and I do not envy those who have to make the difficult decisions.

My Hebrew Teacher

A video essay by Becca Knopf

Becca tells the story of meeting a family that would change the way she understands language and movement for the rest of her life.

Sharing Sacred Silence

Have you ever been  bombarded by sounds that made your skin crawl?  Are there sounds that make your guts clench and your ears ring? 

Could you imagine being locked in a room with somebody raking fingernails over a chalkboard while somebody else dragged a fork over a plate? 

What if that room had flashing disco lights and techno music that wouldn’t stop?

What if this were your reality 24/7?

As a human, you would develop coping techniques.  You would cover your ears, you would get your body moving to quell the gut clenching and skin crawling.  You might start humming to yourself to use the vibration of the humming to drown out the other sounds.

My friend H does all these things.  When things get too hard, he slams his fist into his head in  an attempt to re-direct the pain somewhere tangible and controllable.  

We’ve worked together for years. He’s a young man now and he’s got a dimpled smile that would land him a leading role in a Hollywood movie were it not for his assaulted sensory system which goes along with his autism diagnosis. 

H can’t tolerate much eye contact.  He’s already working hard to deal with the sensory load.  He gets real relief on a horse with the regular rolling motion and he’s very appreciative if you can keep your body, your voice and your horse quiet for him. I check in with him every few minutes and when he grants me a fleeting bit of eye contact, I know it’s a gift and I try not to abuse the gift by asking for more than he can give. 

But he is after all, a young man and he started to get bored walking circles in the arena.  

Last week, I had an idea.  I asked his caregiver permission to take him out onto our kayak.  

The next week I enlisted Becca to help. We put H on Tado, a tall and steady horse, and headed up the hill toward the pond. I worried that an airplane would fly over and send H into fits of auditory pain, I worried that the unfamiliar feeling of riding up a steep hill would cause him to jump off the horse in a panic and run to the safe quiet space of his caregiver’s car.  

H rode up to the pond, hopped off  Tado  and he and I loaded onto the kayak while Becca held Tado. H sat squarely in the middle of the kayak, which meant I was sitting on the upper third of the front of the boat – not ideal from a balance and buoyancy standpoint, but you roll with these things.

 Pushing out onto the pond, I second guessed myself.  If his rocking got more intense, could I keep us safe?  Especially since he was not going to scoot back and I was sitting very close to the front of the boat.  

I turned my body around so that H and I were back to back. This got my weight off the front of the boat and stabilized us a bit. However, H is not eager to be touched and I didn’t know how that would go.  I hoped that human touch would be accepted back to back where there would be no chance of a terrifying frontal gaze.  I was more than right.

I rowed the boat and H’s vocal stimming, his rocking and gasping began to slow. On a whim I quit rowing and the boat drifted soundlessly across the dark pond.  We drifted into some tulle reeds and I breathed out slowly and quietly and……..

Everything went silent.

All the rocking.  All the humming.  All the ear covering. 

And then.

He leaned into my back – and we just sat there.

Not rowing, not talking.  No agenda. Just two people leaning into each other on a pond on a beautiful day. 

We listened to the birds in the tulles – the wind in the eucalyptus trees. We enjoyed the smell of the pennyroyal that started blooming in the fields last week.  We could hear the sound of the horse quietly chomping grass as he and Becca waited for us. 

After 20 minutes, my heart was overflowing with serenity and the knowledge that I’d helped a young man find a beautiful stillness.  I knew I needed to break this sacred silence soon and head back to reality. 

I exhaled softly.  H echoed my sigh.  I handed him the paddle and he began to paddle us back to the horse. 

We got out of the boat with Becca and I looking at each other with tears.  I wasn’t making this up – Becca saw it and heard it too. 

We held the horse next to a bench and H hopped on, the dog joined us and everyone walked  down the hill together absorbed in silent thoughts. 

Leadership – Cool to be Kind

A parent made an astute observation yesterday.  She said that it’s rare – very rare and instinctual for somebody to speak to people with disabilities in a way that is not demeaning and still appropriate.  

I struggle with learning to make space for others in conversation and not talk over a person who is naturally quiet.  I struggle with dead space and thoughtful pauses.  I talk a lot. 

I’ve tried to figure out how to incorporate “tone of voice” into our trainings. And it falls flat. I can feel that the message isn’t landing and I’ve seen really educated and well trained people in the field talking down to clients in a way that makes me squirm. 

So it’s my job to figure out how to teach it. 

I had the benefit and the honor of some early and profound mentors. They taught by example of how Dignity, Humor and Love are the keys to success in this field.

I went to a high school in the suburbs of Sacramento.  It was a public school, not too fancy, nothing special about it. Except for one thing.

“Gary’s Kids.”

Gary Hack was a special ed teacher. He pioneered what he called “Life Skills” for his kids who were mostly Downs Syndrome students. Gary was a young teacher – handsome, fit and funny. Not only did Gary connect with his students, he joked with them, he played with them, he adored them. Gary never talked down to his kids. And then he went further.

Gary created a culture at our suburban high school where all of the “cool kids” petitioned to work in his class.  The cool kids knew Gary’s students by name and they followed Gary’s lead and treated the students with care and dignity and good humor. And if they didn’t, Gary would fire any cool kid who thought they were “too cool” to treat his students well. Consequently, Gary’s students were by association, also cool kids.  They were protected, cared for and VALUED. 

Gary created a culture where it was cool to be caring. He made it fun because he adored his students and adored their innocence – he valued their strength – their sweetness and simplicity and showed us all how refreshing it is to be around people that are fundamentally sweet – and he made it COOL. 

Gary was a leader and he did his work magnificently. 

I am grateful for powerful mentors. 

I Googled his name this morning and found nothing.  Nothing of where he is now, of his work of any further achievements he made. I can tell you that he made an impression on me and on my brother. Mr. Hack, wherever you are – thank you.

A Letter From Our Founders

Like you, Darius and I have been overwrought with recent events. We honor the lives of the brutally murdered man George Floyd, for the injustice suffered by Christian Cooper and way, way too many more.

We grew up believing that we lived in the greatest country in the history of the world. Americans put a man on the moon, America protected democracy the world over, The USA maintained a Supreme Court that thoughtfully balanced the letter and the spirit of the law. 

We grew up starting a school day standing by the side of our desk with our hands over hearts reciting a pledge of allegiance to a flag that flew inside every classroom.

I pledge allegiance to the flag – of the United States of America. And to the Republic for which it stands. One nation, under God. With Liberty and Justice for all.”

Darius and I sat with our thoughts, we compared the reading we were doing and the reading we’d done. We honored great black writers like James Baldwin, Ta Na Hasi Coates, Cornell West and others and we thought about the seminal work of San Francisco’s own Reverend Cecil Williams. 

But what do we “do” about it all? 

We started Square Peg because we both have a keen sense of justice. The old saying “To whom much is given, much is required” rings very true for Darius and me. We are fortunate. We came from loving, educated, and safe homes. We are healthy – we are white. From the time we were children and saw some kids singled out as clumsy, dumb or simply different – we attached to the pain we felt witnessing someone being marginalized. So we created an emotional sanctuary – Square Peg. And it is good. But it isn’t enough. Our sanctuary can’t bring back murdered men like George Floyd or murdered children like Tamir Rice. 

But we can reach out to more disenfranchised populations. We can build more diversity in our Board. We can hire more young adults with neurological differences. We can work with County Mental Health services to become more accessible. These are just some ideas to help open up our space so that more people of color are able to access the joy and magic of our sanctuary. 

I’d like to share a story from last week.  One that could have turned out terribly.

A friend, a volunteer – someone we’ve known for over a decade sent me a text the other morning.  He was having a terrible time and asked if I would call his employer for him to let them know that he wasn’t able to come to work. This friend is a young black man. He’s also autistic. 

He started texting details of his morning and the extreme distress he was under because of some personal issues he was trying hard to resolve. Things escalated and he found himself in a giant emotional meltdown. He needed my help reaching out to his employer to let them know he coudn’t come to work.  Then he texted that he’d injured himself and that he thought he might die.

I knew where he lived and I knew that I was at least 40 minutes away and I really needed to get him help. I had to call 911.

The dispatcher put me on the phone with the sheriff.  He needed details of where to find my friend who was in a rural area.  I tried as best I could to be calm and tell the officer that my friend is autistic – that he has a diagnosed neurological disorder that predisposes him to panic and that he might likely panic when he sees law enforcement.  The officer got agitated and said these words;

“Are you saying he’s going to be uncooperative with law enforcement?”

A terrible chill ran down my spine.

My friend is black, autistic, he has tattoos and wears black hoodies. Had I just unleashed holy hell on my panicked, terrified and possibly injured friend?

My only weapon was my ability to stay calm and my white professional womanhood.

“I’m telling you, he’s AUTISTIC, he’s in a panic and he may feel unsafe with law enforcement.”

The officer said nothing.

With all of the calm I could muster I said

“I know you deal with panic for a living.  I know your officers put their safety on the line. But I deal with autism for a living and I need you to acknowledge that you hear me – that he has a neurological condition.  His panic might look like he’s on drugs but he’s not – he’s terrified.”

I’ll skip to the end of the story, because it’s the only thing that matters. The officer who came on the scene acted MAGNIFICENTLY.  He took his sworn duty to serve and to protect and he helped my friend calm down, he helped find my friend mental health services, he sat with a young, black autistic man and showed him his humanity. 

What could have been a disaster, turned into real help. My friend could have been another statistic and instead told me that for the first time in his life – he felt protected by a police officer. 

I will never know the role I played in this story. I’d like to think this officer is naturally talented and diffused a situation with skills he learned in his training. But I also know I was fearful for my friend and felt it necessary to stress to the dispatcher his diagnosis and color, things that make him at risk for deadlier outcomes when officers are involved. 

I’d like to think this is the new wave of police officer training and de-escalation techniques. But that would let me off the hook, as a white American, of demanding change from what we see in cities across the United States. 

You see, in my America, if you want to Make America Great Again – you must embrace the last and most important line of that pledge we grew up reciting every day:

“With Liberty and Justice FOR ALL”

Let’s get American about that. 

Let’s demand accountability for beliefs and practices that strip fellow citizens of the founding principles of LIBERTY and JUSTICE FOR ALL. 

Speak Up.

Use your privilege to help others.

Don’t forget to Love.

And for goodness sake, wash your hands. 

Love Letter to an “Old Thoroughbred”

Today, we started to feed you “senior feed.” 

Irresponsible King aka Stan by Kingmambo

Keeping weight on has become difficult.  Your coat isn’t the first to shed out this spring and your eyes have taken on the slightest bit of a worried look.

The fire breathing dragon is still there – the curiosity that warms my heart is still there.  The willingness to attack a new challenge is there – but it’s hard for you now. 

I can let just about anyone ride you lately.  I see you when you think about being naughty but instead choose to forgive a heavy hand, an unbalanced seat. You look at me and we both register your good humor. I’m grateful for it. 

I need you to be friends with the new horse.  I need you to re-assure him that he’s safe here. And you do.  If somebody told me 10 years ago that you would be the horse I rely on to calm an old horse I would have laughed heartily.

Because 10 years ago, I wasn’t able to see your whole value.  I saw a brilliant, hot tempered horse.  I didn’t know about the sweetness, I didn’t know that the scary things would leave emotional scars on you. I didn’t know how much you would mean to me.

So eat well my friend.  Take good care of your timid neighbor and tomorrow, we will take a short ride to keep us both loose and limber and I will bask in the honor that you have given me – the lessons, the generosity, the heaping mounds of humility that you foisted on an unaware ego. 

Thank you my friend. 

Younger days for both Irresponsible King and for Joell